MADISON, Wis. (3/31/14)--National Financial Literacy Month kicks off tomorrow, and credit unions throughout the country have a loaded schedule of events and programs planned to demonstrate their prowess in financial education, a critical component of the credit union movement year-round.
In addition to the monthlong celebration, April 5-12 is Money Smart Week, a public awareness campaign designed to help consumers of all shapes and sizes better manage their financial situations.
Later this month will bring National Credit Union Youth Week, April 20-26, when kids will be encouraged to set up savings accounts and learn the ins and outs of managing money.
Here's a glimpse of what credit unions have in store early on this month:
A credit union in Virginia has put its own spin on the month, as it's ordained April as Financial Freedom Month. Virginia Credit Union, Richmond, Va., with $2.6 billion in assets, will spend its Financial Freedom Month--or financial literacy month--offering free seminars, financial check-ups, and other resources and tools to help members increase their savings and reduce debt. Its simple tips and educational resources include how to prepare a budget, evaluate personal debts, sign up for automatic savings and get a free copy of a credit report.
The Credit Union National Association's National Youth Saving Challenge returns this year, with a few new incentives for young people to save throughout April. The new incentives come in the form of prizes, contributed by GreenPath Debt Solutions, a nonprofit credit counseling organization. In concert with National Credit Union Youth Week, the youth saving challenge helps build long-lasting financial savvy and strong relationships between youth and their credit unions. GreenPath's contributions provide 15 extra $100 cash prizes--25 total--and additional prizes for credit unions participating and supporting the program. More than 117,000 young people deposited $25.2 million into their savings accounts last year through the saving challenge program.
So far, 240 credit unions have pledged to participate in the saving challenge, according to Jan Garkey, CUNA Youth Week coordinator.
In the financial literacy spirit, Cornerstone Credit Union League will offer a free webinar hosted by the National Credit Union Administration Thursday to kick off its National Financial Literacy Month festivities. The webinar, called "Financial Literacy: Putting Your Mission into Action," will feature four speakers: Gail Laster, NCUA office of consumer protection director; Louisa Quittman, office of financial education director, U.S. Department of Treasury; Gigi Hyland, executive director, National Credit Union Foundation; and Katie Bryan, communications director, Consumer Federation of America.
League leaders are also encouraging credit unions to hold a "Financial Fitness Day" fundraiser Wednesday to help kick off financial literacy month. The initiative will raise funds for the Cornerstone Foundation and National Credit Union Foundation in support of their financial education programs. For more information visit www.financialfitnessday.com.
Communities throughout the Badger State will celebrate "Money Smart Week Wisconsin" April 5-12, with a multitude of events focused on improving personal financial awareness. Money Smart Week is the cornerstone event for Wisconsinites participating in National Financial Literacy Month. While many programs scheduled have been catered to serve elementary school-age children, Wisconsin communities have put together many free events that will teach consumers of all ages about personal finance. A list of events can be found at www.moneysmartweek.org.
While the Wisconsin Credit Union League, too, will offer a variety of programs and events to help consumers improve their financial wellness, it emphasizes that credit unions are teaching these financial skills year-round. For example, credit unions frequently offer youth-run, in-school credit unions--the implementation of which is considered a "best practice" for youth financial education--savings programs and classroom learning; experimental learning such as online life simulations that challenge teens to balance their life along with their finances; and free financial counseling.
An Illinois-based credit union will offer its own take on a financial literacy-minded event April 10; one that will dive into the psychology of why, what and when consumers buy, in order to help people make better decisions with their money down the road. Consumers CU, Round Lake Beach, Ill., with $584 million in assets, is one of the presenters of the free workshop "The Psychology of Spending." The event, which will be held in Gurnee, Ill., is open to the public and credit union members. Those in attendance will learn about spending habits, impulse buying, bargain hunting and the role of advertising in today's society. "We've all been there before," said Consumer CU President Sean M. Rathjen. "We enter a store intending to purchase one specific item or maybe nothing at all, then leave with numerous items that weren't even on our radar before we walked in."
Phoenix-based Arizona State CU will host next week the first in a series of seven Shred-a-Thon events where community members can come shred up their old, sensitive documents. The events will take place throughout the $1.6 billion-asset credit union's Northern Arizona branch locations starting with Chino Valley April 8. The event is free for all members of the community and aims to raise awareness about the importance of shredding personal documents to stave off identity theft. Documents can be anything from bank statements and tax returns to medical bills and credit card statements. This is the fifth year running that Arizona State CU has hosted these events.